Saturday, December 02, 2006

We need more magnet shops

No... not kitchen designers but shops that sell magnets.

I popped over to see the porters this afternoon because a micro-filter I ordered on Wednesday evening hadn't arrived and I was wondering if they had signed for it but forgotten to tell me (they hadn't; it just hasn't arrived yet).

As I stepped out of the lift on the way back to the flat, my keys fell out of my hands, slipped through the gap and landed in the pit at the bottom of the lift shaft.  ARGHHH!!!! 

This is not an immediate problem (I'm using the spare access fob and keys now) but it's a pain in the neck.  I returned to the porters and asked if they had access to the lift shaft. Unsurprisingly, only the lift maintenance company do and Otis - get this - did their annual inspection yesterday. So only 364 days to go until they return :-(

Now I am not the kind of person to give in and if Otis can't help me then I'll help myself.

So, let's consider the facts:

  • The keys are at the bottom of the lift shaft, which is about two metres lower than the ground floor.
  • The gap through which they fell is about three centimetres wide
  • I have no access to the pit
  • An analysis of the spare set of keys suggests that neither they nor the entry fob are magnetic.
  • The key ring may be magnetic (the spare set's key ring is but I changed the key ring on the stranded set which means I don't know for sure)
  • If I shine a torch through the gap, I can see the keys directly below. Apart from the keys, all I can see is some dust and lots of red elastic bands.... Tsk, tsk Royal Mail.

So, what are my options?

  • Lower a long, thin stick with a hook on the end through the gap and attempt to capture the keys.
    • Problem: I may push the keys further out of reach
  • Lower a long, thin stick with glue on the end and attempt to get the keys to stick to it
    • Problem: knowing my luck, I'll end up gluing the stick to the side of the lift and or sealing the doors shut or something
  • Lower a long, thin stick with molten wax on the end and touch it to the keys. Wait for the wax to set before lifting them out
    • Problem: actually, this may not be as foolish as it sounds...
  • The wax idea but with jelly
    • Problem: I don't have any jelly, silly
  • Lower a long, thin stick with double-sided sticky tape on the end. Attempt to capture the keys.
    • I'll probaby capture the dust long before I capture any keys.
  • Lower a magnet on a string. Capture the keys. Reel them in

Given the options, it strikes me that the magnet approach is best.

And this is where I am tearing my hair out... I can't find one for love or money!!!

I started by searching the flat:

  • There is one in each of my nice speakers. I don't want to ruin my nice speakers.
  • There is one in my guitar's practise amp (aside: what role is "practise" playing in that sentence? Is it a verb? An adjective? I do hope I shouldn't have spelled it with a 'c'). I don't want to break my amplifier.
  • There are three magnets in the bathroom cabinet. I tried prising one out with a knife. I almost cut off my finger :-(  
  • I thought about wrapping some metal-cored garden twine around a screwdriver and plugging it into the mains as a make-shift electromagnet before deciding against and realising that I couldn't remember whether an electromagnet needed AC or DC.

Realising that there were no useable magnets at home, I walked to Canary Wharf. The staff at Robert Dyas couldn't help. Waitrose had none. Neither did Tesco or Marks and Spencer or Boots or anyone else. Arghhh!

So, readers, I implore the entrepreneurial amongst you: open a magnet shop. For the love of all that is decent in this world, we need more magnet shops! 


Jon Deane said...

It is certainly "practise" and is a transitive verb, not an adjective: the amplifier is for practising your guitar skills, not an amplifier with a nature of "practise".

Jon Deane said...

And opening a magnet shop is such a bad idea. With such a high concentration of magnets in one place, there's bound to be a massive particle acceleration effect and we risk opening a rift into some hellmouth.

Anyway, it'd be a nightmare for the staff, having to deal with poles switching over. And customers' credit cards being wiped.

GEB said...

Try the Early Learning centre , Hawkins Bazaar or any toy shop. Good luck.

Ben said...

You can borrow my very strong hard disk magnets next week. If you use them both slotted together, they will pick up small objects without pulling the whole lift out of its shaft... And there are convenient holes for you to put string though.

Ben said...

Yes, I did have to try it didn't I: luckily my monitor has a de-gaussing feature.

Henry said...

Oh Richard, can we have an update on your plight?

I'd have gone for the bent coathanger on a stick option.

Richard Brown said...

On grammar: Thanks Jon. I certainly agree that the amplifier is for practising my guitar skills. However, I'm still unsure. For example, we could simplify my sentence to: "I own a practise amp". Now, if that sentence read: "I own a red amp" or "I own a broken amp", we could probably agree that "red" and "broken" are performing as adjectives. Therefore, what makes "practise" any different? And, assuming it *is* acting as an adjective, should I use a "c" or an "s". I think the answer is still "s".... but it's more subtle than I originally thought.

On opening a magnet shop and the attendant dangers. Jon - good point. Perhaps people *do* open magnet shops all the time but don't live to tell the tale and don't even make it to the opening day. Scary thoughts. Even without the particle acceleration effect, I imagine the proprietor would be in perpetual danger of being hit by flying objects.

ELC/Hawkins... good idea. Thanks.

Ben: Yes please! I do worry that I'll end up getting the magnet stuck to part of the lift's workings and break it but I'll take the risk :-)

GEB said...

At grammar school I was taught to use 'practise' as a verb and 'practice' as a noun. I would hazard a guess that it should be 'practice' amp as it is being used as an adjective describing the amp. Any thoughts?

Richard Brown said...

Arghhh!!!! I wrote a detailed response to "GEB"'s comment and then closed my browser before it had properly posted. Arghhh!

The essence was that since a doctor can both practice and practise, the "s=verb, c=noun" rule-of-thumb doesn't always work.

I then went on to comment that since an operating table is one upon which you operate, we have evidence for the use of verbs as adjectives. Therefore, "practise" is probably the correct word to use in the context of "practise amp" --- but I'd still appreciate confirmation!

Jon Deane said...

No. A doctor does not practice. He *has* a practice.

I suppose, it is possible that a practice might have an amp and therefore it would be the practice amp; but this is simply not the case here.

Practise in the sense of learning a skill is always a verb and that is what it is here.

Henry said...

I have been good and stayed away from this conversation, but it has all got too much in recent hours.

Two points:

1. Despite what Jon says, practice amp is acceptable as a UK English noun phrase: in this case practice is a verbal noun, derived from the verb practise.

2. I suspect that said item is of American extraction, in which case both noun and verb are spelt with a c.

I really would like to hear more about the engineering solution.

Jon Deane said...

Henry, dear chap.

1. Yes, that would probably be acceptable. Not a case of 'despite'.

2. That just makes no sense. Richard is British, and he will remain so when using his amplifier.

Andrew Ferrier said...

Just give up and outsource the problem to Otis, paying whatever fees they charge. See it as an investment in free time and reduced risk of injury/embarrassment.

Or just leave them there and change the locks :)

Richard Brown said...

No. A doctor does not practice. He *has* a practice.

That's annoying. Are you saying that a doctor practiSes medicine? How intensely irritating. I have been confidently spelling it with a 'c' until now.

Andrew: thank you for the suggestion. As an economically semi-literate individual with a passing acquaintance with comparative advantage, I accept that the rational approach would be to give up. However, that I refuse to either suggests I am mad or derive some sort of pleasure from solving such problems. Irritatingly.

Henry: no update, I am afraid. I have blocked out tomorrow evening to work on this problem. I may try to locate suitable magnet shops around Waterloo when I am in South Bank tomorrow. I take Jon's counsel on board: viable magnet shops will be very large, with huge gaps between each display case. Therefore, I can rule out poky-looking establishments as they would have long since killed their proprietor had he chosen to sell magnets.

Perhaps one can apply a magnet version of the anthropic principle here....

Andrew Ferrier said...

That's annoying. Are you saying that a doctor practiSes medicine? How intensely irritating. I have been confidently spelling it with a 'c' until now.

So have I. To me, the S looks American. However, The Free Dictionary disagrees:

'Chiefly British'

Oh dear. How embarrassing.

Still, I happily spell licen(c/s)e interchangeably, so maybe it's just to late to change...

Richard Brown said...

Thanks Andrew.... that link you sent seems to thorougly mix things up!